Arizona Death Row Inmate Withdraws Execution Request, Citing Concerns Over Lethal Injection Process

Convicted murderer Aaron Gunches made the request on Wednesday, about two months after he asked the Arizona Supreme Court to issue a death warrant.

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An Arizona death row inmate has asked the court to withdraw his execution request, saying the lethal injection process amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

According to AZCentral, 51-year-old Aaron Gunches filed a motion last year asking the state Supreme Court to issue his death warrant. The inmate was sentenced to death nearly 15 years ago, after he was found guilty of kidnapping and fatally shooting Ted Price—the ex-husband of his then-girlfriend. Gunches initially told the court he wanted to be executed “so that justice may be lawfully served and give closure to the victim’s family”; however, the inmate claims he had a change of heart following recent executions carried out by the Arizona Department of Corrections.

“The staff on the execution team are not medical professionals, nor are they certified for IV insertion,” he alleged in a handwritten motion filed on Wednesday. “For the Arizona Supreme Court to issue an execution warrant under the current conditions amounts to court ordered cruel and unusual punishment, which simply cannot be allowed.”

Gunches also cited a recent Arizona Republic article, in which the state’s Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes expressed concerns over the execution process: “We need to take some time to assess how the death penalty has worked, and make sure that this is done legally and correctly,” she told the publication. 

The man told the court he wouldn’t have asked for a death warrant had he known Mayes’ position.

“The 3 recent botched executions of [Clarence] Dixon, [Frank] Atwood, [Murray] Hooper were done under AG [Mark] Brnovich and carried out in a manner that amounts to torture,” Gunches wrote. “Aaron Gunches does not want to be tortured before he is executed and asks this court to withdraw his motion with leave to file at a later date, after AG Mayes insures executions can be done in a proper manner.”

Mayes said the state doesn’t intend to oppose his request. The Arizona Supreme Court has ordered the state to issue a response by Jan. 12. 

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